First Confirmed Abrams Tank Variant Captured By Russia Seen With Inner Armor Exposed

The M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle’s capture is a loss for critical Ukrainian mine-clearing capabilities and a propaganda win for Russia.

byHoward Altman|
For the first time, the Russians have captured a U.S-donated M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle, which is a variant of the M1 Abrams tank.
Via X


Images and video emerging on social media show the first claimed capture by Russia of a U.S.-donated M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV), a variant of the M1A1 Abrams main battle tank. One photo shows a very rare if not unprecedented cross-section look inside the Abrams' composite armor. The Russians can always benefit from obtaining U.S. equipment as we have written about in the past, especially an Abrams variant. However, the extent of the intelligence that can be gained will be limited, an armor expert tells The War Zone.

"I have very minimum concern" about what Russia can glean from the capture, said the expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Our ABV does not have the M1 Abrams current advanced turret and hull armor package that the M1A2 SEP V2 and V3 have. There is no gunner position and target acquisition systems and software in the ABV. There are no tank rounds. There is no battle command digital system and software."

Export variants of the M1, including those modified for operations in Ukraine, do not have the Abrams' highly classified depleted Uranium armor that is exclusive to the U.S. military. You can read more about this in our deep dive here.

The Russians say they have captured this U.S. donated M1150 Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV). (Via Twitter)

Like the U.S. foreign materiel exploitation (FME) programs, Russia has the FME capability to gain information from captured equipment. However, the only insight the Russians could gain from the ABV "is our [Mine Clearing Line Charges [MICLIC] capabilities such as launch time, distance and explosion capabilities. All detailed information posted in open source forums and YouTube to include by the US Army."

Articles like the captured ABV could also be used for destructive testing, where Russia employs its own weapons against it to better understand their efficacy and vulnerabilities in the Abrams family of tanks.

The capture, however, represents a big loss of mine clearing ability for Ukraine.

"It is a significant loss of breaching capability as each loss reduces their capacity to conduct this critical operation to punch a whole in the Russian lines to allow continuous and deep penetration," the expert posited.

The M1150 takes on the very high-risk mission of clearing the way for other forces. In Ukraine, the danger this entails is on a whole other level. Such vehicles are awash in mines and the first to be targeted by first person video drones. The U.S. Army describes the M1150 as a “highly mobile and heavily armored minefield and complex obstacle breaching system. It consists of an M1A1 Abrams tank hull; a unique turret with two Linear Demolition Charge Systems (employing two Mine Clearing Line Charges [MICLIC] and rockets); a Lane Marking System [LMS]; Integrated Vision System; and a High Lift Adapter that interchangeably mounts a Full Width Mine Plow [FWMP] or a Combat Dozer Blade.”

The first M1150 appeared in Ukraine last November, but it is unclear how many have been donated. The Pentagon's fact sheets of donated equipment don't specifically list the M1150 and a Pentagon spokesman declined to provide that information to The War Zone on the basis of operational security concerns.

Ukraine received this M1150 Assault Beaching Vehicle from the U.S. in November 2023. (Ukrainian President's Office photo) Ukraine President's Office

Ukraine has already suffered the destruction of two of these vehicles, according to the Oryx open source tracking group. Those figures could be even higher because Oryx only tabulates vehicles for which it has visual confirmation. Ukraine has also seen at least two of the 31 donated Abrams tanks destroyed and two damaged and abandoned, according to Oryx.

The expert offered an analysis of what can be observed in several of the photos posted online.

The following image showing a cross-section of the vehicle's composite armor does not raise any concerns for the expert.

"Russia uses the same spaced armor techniques and technologies," was the explanation. "It’s not the latest armor technology which can defeat the latest and anticipated future sabot technology."

The picture show's the ABV's composite armor. (Via Twitter)

"This next photo shows the front of the ABV," the expert explained. "Nothing significant. There is obvious damage to the right track area indicating an explosive force pushed up the track cover. It was likely a mine which makes sense as it’s a breaching vehicle and sometimes mines that get pushed out of the way detonate near it."

The ABV experienced damage to its right track, likely from an exploding mine. (Via Twitter)

"There is no significant damage to the engine," seen in the photo below, the expert said. "The bustle rack has the standard auxiliary pack, storage bins etc. The left track is missing, showing more signs of likely mine damage."

The ABV suffered no significant damage to its engine. (Via Twitter)

The photo below "shows the Vehicle Commander position. All controls in there are for operating the different breaching capabilities of the vehicle and nothing more. Like the MICLIC launch system and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) protection system. Turn it on and the filtration system starts flowing clean air into the tank and the NBC hose that connects to the pro-mask. It also shows lane marking systems, optics etc…"

A view of the Vehicle Command position. (Via Twitter)

The following photo shows "the ABV's dispenser unit," said the expert. "It’s just a relay/regulator type component. Nothing significant."

An image of a relay/regulator. (Via Twitter)

Additional images and video show that the ABV likely experienced a tremendous explosion.

"The force is so great, it rocked off part of the left side of the turret cover," said the expert.

The vehicle was hit by a tremendous explosion. (Via Twitter)

This following video, published by the Kremlin-connected Rybar group, shows the captured vehicle being towed. According to the expert, that is an indication that the crew likely survived.

"The missing road wheels, road wheel arms and sprocket tells me it was a mine. But the vehicle is built for survivability and that’s why you see the crew survived based on the condition of the positions," the expert suggested.

The ABV is far from the first donated armored vehicle that found its way into Russian hands. In December, a Russian television station did a segment on an M2A2-ODS Bradley Fighting Vehicle that was captured during the start of the Ukrainian offensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast in June 2023.

In addition to the ABV and the Bradley seen in the TV segment, the Russians have also captured at least three other Bradleys, a French-donated AMX-10 RC(R), a Swedish Pbv 501A Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), a Swedish CV-90 fighting vehicle and a German Marder 1A3 IFV among many others, according to Oryx.

The Russians also have video of a Leopard tank they will put on display with other captured armor on May 1, but Oryx only lists six of those as damaged and abandoned.

Still, the expert says that Russia will gain a propaganda win from hauling off the ABV.

"It is a morale boost for Putin and his failing military," he commented.

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